How to Prevent Your Guitar Pick Slipping

Do you find your guitar pick is rotating between your fingers as you’re trying to play? Or perhaps, even when you think you’ve got a decent grip, the pick suddenly comes unstuck and flies across the room?

Pick slippage is a surprisingly common problem and one that is completely solvable. 

To prevent your guitar pick from slipping hold the pic between the top of the index finger and thumb and test different grip strengths. Experiment with different pick gauges, and materials, and try using a non-slip pick. Lastly, always wash your hands and keep a towel close by to reduce sweat on the pick and the strings.

While there is no singular trick that will stop your pick from slipping, it’s more of a culmination of many of the factors mentioned above.

So today we’re going to go through all the major factors that contribute to pick slippage. If you follow through and address as many of these as you can, you’ll find that unwanted movement of the pick will be heavily reduced, if not completely eliminated.

Technique and form – holding the pick correctly

While technically there is no ‘official’ way to hold a guitar pick, the large majority of players lean towards holding it between the thumb and the outside of the index finger.

How to Hold a Pick to Prevent Pick Slippage

This provides the best all-around balance between pick angle, string attack, and comfort and aids in the efficiency of your playing, especially when it comes to techniques such as alternate picking.

You might argue there are players out there who have great success using an unusual pick grip or picking technique, and you’re absolutely right! This is something unique to them and can often become a large part of their playing style and identity on the guitar.

But if you are struggling with pick slippage, then this is certainly your first port of call as unusual technique is one of the most common contributors to pick slipping/rotation.

Grip strength

Another common contributor to unwanted pick movement is the grip strength being applied while playing.  A loose grip can result in the pick becoming easy to rotate in your hand, however, if you play with much of a firm grip the pick’s liable to go flying.

Not only that it will also affect your tone and give you less control.

So what’s the correct amount of strength to use?

Well, this is a difficult one to quantify as we don’t really measure grip strength and give it any kind of quantitative value, it’s much more of a ‘feel’ thing.

But awareness is often enough to help you address the issue of a slippery pick. Just being cognizant of how much force you are using will remind you to play and adjust your grip strength more often. In doing so you’re sure to find the sweet spot of what works for you. 

But a good general rule is: if your pick is rotating try to grip the pick tighter, if you find your fingernail is turning white from pressure, it’s probably a good idea to ease up a little. This will mostly come down to personal preference and comfort.

Using the right pick type

Light Gauge Pick

Guitar picks are one of the least expensive guitar accessories available, so it makes sense to experiment. There are a huge number of guitar pick types, available in all manner of different gauges (thickness) and materials.  Depending on what style of music you’re playing, using an inappropriate pick type can easily make it difficult to stop the pick from slipping.

Pick thickness

Usually, we choose our picks thickness for tonal reasons, as using a thicker pick when playing an acoustic guitar, for example, might sound hard and abrasive. While using a pick that’s too thin on an electric guitar might make your power chords sound thin.

However, a heavy pick can often transfer a lot of force into the fingers. This is great when you want that lively and aggressive sound, but a heavy/stiff pick combined with insufficient grip strength increases the risk of the pick becoming unstable in your hands.

And in the same vein using a thinner pick for a style that demands more active and aggressive playing can be difficult to keep control of as the pick gets pushed around by the strings and the force of your playing.

Our suggestion here is to head to your local guitar store and purchase a bunch of different types of pick. It’s only by trying them out, in person, and with your own hands that you’ll be able to find a thickness that works well for you, and besides compared to many other accessories picks are relatively inexpensive.

Non-slip picks

The average pick will often feature embossing of some kind or a grip pattern on the surface of the pick, which provides additional grip and resistance for when the pick’s trying to move in your fingers.

But these grips are not all created equal.

Some pick manufacturers use a pattern/design engraved or embossed into the surface of the pick which is specifically designed to reduce pick movement as you play. While others treat it as more of a branding exercise, e.g. just a raised brand logo designed to assist with grip.

So, trying to source a non-slip pick with a really nice and solid grip design is sure to help contribute to keeping the thing locked in place between your fingers.

Pick material

Over the years the kind of materials we use for guitar picks has changed a lot. Back in the day, there were real tortoiseshell picks (which are now thankfully illegal to produce). Nowadays you’ll find synthetic plastic picks made from materials such as celluloid, Dunlops special tortex (essentially a synthetic tortoiseshell), ultex, delrin, and nylon.

Now while I can’t sit here and say what you should use as each player’s requirements are different, what I can say is the pick material will play a factor in how the pick feels and responds when striking the strings.

This, in turn, makes it a factor in pick slippage. So I highly encourage trying out a few different materials and seeing what works best for you tonally, and also in terms of how it stays put in your fingers.

Sweaty hands

Any kind of sweaty grip, due to skin oils, or moisture facilitates pick movement between the fingers. Fortunately, this can be managed.

Always wash your hands with soap before playing, even if you don’t have pick slippage this is something you should do as removing the oils from your hands/fingers not only helps your hands travel around the neck smoother, it also stops the oils on your hands destroying your guitar strings.

If you find you’re playing a long set and are sweating profusely mid-way through – always keep a towel handy so you can wipe off excess sweat in between songs.

Additional products

Hopefully, after you’ve addressed everything mentioned above you will have already seen a significant improvement in pick stability.

But there are a couple of additional products out there that are specifically designed to address this issue, and if you use these in tandem with all the practices mentioned above your pick shouldn’t be going anywhere!

Gorilla Snot

Some people swear by this, it’s a non-gooey refined tree resin that acts as a mild gripping aid. It uses the heat of your fingers to help adhere the pick surface to your hands, providing plenty of grip for the guitar player.

It washes up easily and a little tub of it is pretty inexpensive. Well worth keeping in your gig-bag as it can be a lifesaver.

Monster grips

These are durable, food-grade silicone grip-stickers that you can stick onto your guitar pick, creating a nice grippy surface on the top. It’s non-messy and fairly inexpensive. Especially helpful if you’re attached to a style of pick but it doesn’t have any grip pattern from the manufacturer.

Some reviewers claim the picks lose grip over time, but after speaking to a representative from Monster Grips this is incorrect, it’s actually the oils produced in the person’s skin building up on the silicone over time, rather than the grip itself losing stickiness.

This is very easily remedied by washing the grip with a non-moisturizing soap, rinsing, and then patting dry with a cotton cloth or towel. Once washed, the grip is restored and will perform as if you had just opened the pack.

Final thoughts

We hope you found some of the tips mentioned in this article helpful in reducing or hopefully eliminating guitar pick slippage completely.

Sometimes this can involve some experimentation and finding the right combinations of pick thickness, grip, form, and technique to get right. So don’t get discouraged! After enough experimentation, you’re sure to find a winning combination that works just for you!

Liam Plowman

Photo of author
UK-based guitar nerd with an unhealthy addiction to accumulating gear. Began playing properly at the age of 12 after hearing Soilwork's Natural Born Chaos and deciding that trying to solo like Peter Wichers was a respectable life goal. Full-time guitar teacher, mixing engineer, and trained guitar technician at the Oxford Guitar Gallery. Currently involved in the Perth-based metal band Decode the Design and British progressive project MERA.